Review / The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish

20220905ma_1681Book: The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish (2021)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Vanderbeekers Book 5

Opening lines from the book …
Wild was a word that could describe the weather on 141st Street on the first Monday of August. a hot wind rushed through the checkered streets of Harlem with such ferocity that trees bent in wide arches and pedestrians had to lean into the gusts at steep angled to keep from being blown off course.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) It’s fun to be back with the Vanderbeekers. By this time (five books into the series!) they feel like family. I no longer am confused by who’s who in the family. 🙂

2) It’s Papa’s birthday and the kids want to make his day special. Although, when Papa has to go away, that puts a little damper on things. But they’re still going to make the plans for when he returns!

3) There’s a little bit of a mystery surrounding Papa’s past as the kids work on the perfect birthday gift. I enjoyed figuring out things about Papa that will eventually lead us to the next book!

4) I liked the additional conflict of adding Mama’s parents who come for an extended visit! The grandmother is so critical! Perfect to add tension to the story. And the grandfather is so quiet, you wonder what he’s up to.

5) The bike ride over the Brooklyn Bridge (pictured on the front cover) is certainly a highlight of the story. I’ve never ridden across the bridge, but I have walked over the pedestrian pathway. It’s actually one of my favorite touristy things to do when I’m in Lower Manhattan. And there’s a nice little plot point with one of the bikes! 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ever enjoyable series! It does have a bit of cliffhanger (if you can call it that), which means I’m looking forward to reading the next book. Which should be due out pretty soon!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

PB Review / A Girl Named Rosita

rositaBook: A Girl Named Rosita (2020)
Author: Anika Aldamuy Denise
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Juncos, Puerto Rico, 1935
In a tiny cottage tucked between El Yunque Peak and a wild fragrant rainforest lives a girl: a girl with the rhythm of the rainforest in her feet and the sweetness of the sugarcane field in her swishing skirts.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is the story of Rita Moreno. She and her mother move from their home in Puerto Rico where she misses her little brother, Francisco. She eventually learns English and takes dance lessons from the teacher of the amazing Rita Hayworth! She wants to be just like the Hollywood stars. Rita ends up in Hollywood and is cast in the musical West Side Story! She will be playing Anita. And when the Academy Awards happen, all of the New York Puerto Ricans hold their breath.

I loved all the lyrical dance language. The swishes and twirls all evoke such wonderful movement. As a huge fan of West Side Story, I loved this little peek into the real life of “Anita.” I always loved her performance in that movie. So it was wonderful to see the story that led up to that amazing performance. After reading this, I just had to watch some clips of the movie.

(My big question… Whatever happened to brother Francisco?)

Thank you @marianallanos for recommending this book to me!

 


12-PBs-June12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

logprincessBook: The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess (2021)
Author/Illustrator: Tom Gauld
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Once there lived a king and queen who happily ruled a pleasant land, but they had no children.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is an original fairy tale. It features a King and Queen who want children. They end up with a son (the robot) and a daughter (the log princess). But, this being a fairy tale, things don’t go well. Being a fairy tale, the log princess turns into a log every night until you say the magic words.

Really, it’s a lovely story about a brother and sister. They work together to get out of their predicament. One of my favorite parts is when the author hints at all the adventures they have which we don’t exactly see. Like meeting the Magic Pudding or the Lady in a Bottle. There are actually two of these sections in the book. As a kid, I would have LOVED this because it meant I could make up my own story with the two characters.

Tom Gauld’s illustrations are quite wonderful. I love the detail and everything. The beetles are adorable! I would recommend this book to those who love fairy tales or any type of adventure story. And who doesn’t love a fairy tale or adventure story?

Thank you @KimALarson7 for recommending this book to me!

 


12-PBs-May

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy

20220405ma_0514Book: Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy (2022)
Author: S.E. Richey
Illustrator: Jhon Ortiz
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Lulu finally had a wiggly tooth. She waited her whole life, and she knew exactly what to buy with the tooth fairy money. “A pony!”

MY THOUGHTS…

What a fun story! It’s told in a dual-narrative style. We get to see things from Lulu’s point of view, and then on the opposite side of the page, we get to see what’s happening with Trixie, the tooth fairy! And boy oh boy. Trixie is one of those fairies that has a little trouble with directions and finding her way to the right location. Which, of course, leads us in a fun, comedy-of-errors style romp.

The mix-ups are what make the story such fun. But poor Lulu has to wonder, What’s up with this tooth fairy??? How come my tooth is STILL under my pillow. I especially liked the little nod to the different kinds of tooth fairies from around the world when we get to meet Ratoncito (the “tooth fairy” from Puerto Rico).

And the art by Jhon Ortiz is wonderfully appealing.

 


12-PBs-Apr

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Milo Imagines the World

milo-pbBook: Milo Imagines the World (2021)
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
What begins as a slow, distant glow grows and grows into a tired train that clatters down the tracks. A cool rush of wind quiets into a screech of steel, and when the doors slide open, Milo slips aboard.

MY THOUGHTS…

Read that opening? THAT is SO New York City! I loved being immersed into the NYC subway system with  Milo and his sister as they go to visit their mom. (It’s a mystery about where their mom is.) However, Milo keeps busy by people-watching. And he makes up stories to go with each person he sees.

And that’s when the boy with the perfect bright white shoes steps on the subway car. Milo thinks he must be a prince or something very fine. But what I love about this book is that Milo’s expectations (and ours) are subverted. I won’t spoil it, but we are invited to see that there’s often more to the world than what we see.

I love the illustrations, especially “Milo’s art,” which gave it such a realistic feel.

Thank you to Kimberly A. Gordon Biddle @KimberlyBiddle4 for recommending this book to me!


12-PBs-Feb

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

Review / Vanderbeekers #4

20210627ma_1378Book: The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found (2020)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

Basic plot: The Vanderbeekers are out to help their friend, Orlando. His mom has disappeared and they want him to come live permanently with their upstairs neighbour Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie (who happen to be his uncle and aunt). Orlando isn’t sure and thinks maybe he should move back to Georgia but promises to stay at least until the New York City marathon.

Opening lines from the book …
Bright morning sunshine drifted through the windows of the red brownstone on 141st Street, filling the kitchen with a soft glow.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love this family. I like that it’s a big family and that they treat this like it isn’t all that unusual. But I also like how the whole building (with Mr. B and Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie) are also part of the “family”. 🙂

2) There’s a new character, Jessie’s friend Orlando. He brings in the whole “lost and found” aspect of the story. I like the little mystery involving him and how they figure it out. And while the kids are trying to help him with his situation, I like how he maintains a love for his own mother, even when she can’t look after him. There’s a nice moment when he explains this to the other kids.

3) There are some touching scenes with Lanie and Mr. Jeet. His health is declining, but she faithfully visits him every day, bringing one of the pets to bring him some joy (much to the chagrin of one of the mean nurses on duty).

4) I love the New York City marathon part of the story. Mr. Beiderman (their old nemesis) is training with Orlando for the race. It’s hilarious when one of the kids (I think it’s Lanie?) gives him his sparkly purple shirt with his name on it so people know to cheer him on. If I were Mr. B, I would have refused to wear that in public. But, he’s an old softy!

5) I think Hyacinth is my favourite character. So, I really did sympathize with her over trying to make friends at school. I understood her “solution” to arrive at school just in time for the bell. No sooner. No later. So when she all of a sudden has to go to school well before the bell rings… Yeah, I feel for you, Hyacinth. Her siblings don’t quite get this about her, but they also know that it’s important to push her to reach to make new friends.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The rooftop is featured on the book cover. I kind of thought it’d play more of an important role in the story. But it didn’t. (Cool cover, though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this latest installment of the Vanderbeeker saga. I like the new characters and look forward to the next book. Yes, there’s a new book on the horizon…

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Ten Good and Bad Things About my Life

20210516ma_1038Book: Ten Good and Bad Things About my Life (2012)
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Ten Rules for Living with my Sister

Basic plot: Pearl is back! And this time, she’s entering the fifth grade. And on the first day of school, she’s given an assignment about her summer vacation. Except, her family’s summer plans did not go as expected. That’s because Dad loses his job and, suddenly, the family has to find ways to make ends meet. Pearl chronicles it all…

Opening lines from the book …
“Lexie?” I said on the first day of fifth grade. “Are you nervous about school?”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Pearl has such a spirited and endearing personality. She is just a bundle of energy and it’s great to see her thought process as she says or does the wrong thing and then tries to fix it.

2) JBIII (pronounced JB-three) is back. He’s James Brubaker the Third, but Pearl shortened his name. He’s such a good friend. But their friendship is not without its ups and downs. I enjoyed seeing them weather the tough stuff.

3) I love the relationship between the sisters. Lexie still doesn’t like underwear visits (if you remember that from the first book), yet the relationship has matured. I love how they go about job-seeking together. Or rather Pearl just tags along.

4) The scenes at camp are great! My favourite part is when Pearl is at the sleep-away part of camp and she explains how you have to go out into the dark, dark woods in order to use the bathroom (known as Goose Lodge), something she really does NOT want to do! When she gives an outline of each day of her camp experience, she always makes note of this: Really hope do not have to go to Goose Lodge alone tonight. Or Did not have to go to Goose Lodge in pitch dark last night.

5) This book deals with a dad who loses a job. And no, that’s not really a spoiler since Pearl basically spoils us with this news in the opening lines of the second chapter. I love how the family works together to weather this not-so-good news. And I love how the girls want to help by finding their own jobs! 

6) Which brings me to how Pearl finds a “job”. I won’t spoil it, but it does fit in very well with her personality and her talents and abilities. 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) We get a glimpse of Pearl’s brand new teacher, Ms. Brody, at the beginning of the novel. I was expecting more about Ms. Brody. Turns out, she’s really just a device. The whole book is basically a flashback for one of those “How I Spent My Summer” assignments. Not sure how I feel about that. The opening chapter made such a big deal about school and starting fifth grade, and we really don’t get anything about fifth grade!

2) While I love the atmosphere of New York City, the staycation fell a little flat for me. They do a lot of touristy things (that most New Yorkers don’t do!), but nothing really of substance happens during these scenes. Really, they could have been taken out and nothing would be amiss.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a fun sequel to Ann M. Martin’s first book about these same characters. The family has been compared to the Quimby family (i.e. Ramona and Beezus), and I can see their point. Modern-day Quimby family living in NYC!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Daily Bread

Daily-BreadBook: Daily Bread (2020)
Author: Antoinette Truglio Martin
Genre: MG, Historical [1911]

Basic plot: It is 1911. Crammed into a three-room flat in a Mott Street tenement, the large Taglia family needs all the help they can muster. Spunky songbird Lily wants to help by baking Daily Bread at the bakery like big sister, Margaret. But Margaret says Lily is just a little kid, and there is more to baking Daily Bread than height and an artist’s heart. Lily learns to navigate in a grown-up world when facing bullies, disasters, dotty bakers, and treacherous streets to cross by herself..

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Loved Margaret and her ambition! In some ways, she reminded me of Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I especially loved the little part where she reveals to Lily how she saves her money. Of course, what’s also nice is how this is juxtaposed by Margaret’s friend, Connie, and her views about money.

2) And then there was Lily’s connection to Mrs. Goldberg through song and dance (ballet). One particularly touching scene is when Mrs. Goldberg seems to be in a deep depression which is then breached by Lily’s song. Later on in the story, I found the revelation about the Goldbergs’ backstory to be fascinating.

3) And let’s not forget the knot surprises. I want a knot surprise! (Not with cheese, though. Jam, please!) Frankly, all the bread in this book did make me hungry. And, while I have never worked in a bakery, I have helped my mother bake bread. (There is almost nothing more fun than punching down the raised dough.)

4) I loved the Lower Manhattan setting. One of my favourite “tourist sites” in all of New York City is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. It’s a spot I’ve repeatedly taken visitors when I lived in New York. This book took me back to those places!

5) When I first saw mention of the Triangle Waistshirt Factory, I knew there was something coming. Whether or not you’re aware of what happened there in 1911, this book will let you relive that historical moment in time.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found the ending a little abrupt. Like, that’s it? I liked the ending, but I wanted a bit more of a resolution after the very traumatic climax. That said, it’s not a bad ending, it’s just that I wanted more.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book definitely had the flavour of the classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I would recommend this book to readers who are fans of authors like Patricia Reilly Giff, especially if you’re interested in the immigrant experience to New York.

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review.**


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Ten Rules for Living with my Sister

ten-rulesBook: Ten Rules for Living with my Sister (2011)
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Pearl’s older sister Lexie has a ton of rules, one of them being: “No underwear visits from Pearl!” But when their grandpa, Daddy Bo, needs to stay with the family in their Manhattan apartment, suddenly the girls must share a bedroom.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the humour of this book. Pearl is very likable, but I can also understand Lexie’s frustrations.

2) Pearl’s lists were awesome! She does one where she compares herself to Lexie.

3) One of Pearl’s big problems has to do with the fact that she doesn’t really have any friends. I like how Lexie helps open her eyes that it’s okay to be friends with somebody you might at first reject as a friend-material (like a boy!)

4) Daddy Bo! I loved this grandfather, especially his relationship with Pearl. However, it is hard at times to see how some form of dementia starts to affect him.

5) Loved the New York City setting… The one little fact of their school playground being on the roof is such a city-thing! And there are all sorts of little NYC stuff thrown in, like having bagels at the birthday party. (They even mention lox, although only one kid eats the lox!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Sometimes Pearl did get on my nerves a bit. Maybe that’s just the older sister in me. (I don’t think I’d want underwear visits, either.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Loved this story of two sisters! Definitely would recommend for fans of Ramona Quimby. This book definitely had the Ramona vs. Beezus vibe… set in New York City! 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Counting Thyme

counting-thymeBook: Counting Thyme (2016)
Author: Melanie Conklin
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Thyme Owen’s little brother Val has cancer. What that means is that their family leaves their home in California to go to get him a special treatment in New York City. Thyme’s not keen on leaving behind her best friend Shani. So, she plans to save up the slips in her Thyme Jar (a little reward system used by her parents) so she can go home early to spend her birthday with Shani in March… just like they do every year. But things start to get complicated, especially when Thyme starts to make new friends. She even signs up to take part in the Spring Fling musical at school in… uh oh… March. And then there’s Val’s cancer treatments…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I enjoyed the relationship between Thyme and her little brother Val. And also the relationship (at times hard; at other times sisterly) with her sister Cori. And I do like that their names are all garden herbs… thanks Mom (i.e. Rosemary)! Thyme = well, Thyme; Cori = Coriander; and Val = Valerian. Okay, so I’m not super enamored with Val’s name. First, because valerian root is a sleep agent and that seems a little weird to me. Not sure what would have been a better name, though! But I do like the names for Thyme and Coriander.

2) One of the best characters is Mrs. Ravelli, the Italian woman who comes to help the family by cooking, cleaning, and walking Thyme to school. What a wonderful woman she is! I love how Thyme gives her the nickname (in a fond sense) of Ravioli. Because well, her name sounds a lot like it.

3) It’s hard to leave your home and friends behind. I love stories that deal with this. Conklin does a nice job with making this work for the story in just the right balance… the longing vs. the acceptance of a new situation. I like the fact that we get to see how the different family members deal with this.

4) The new friendships that develop in the story were nicely done. They took a few little turns I wasn’t quite expecting, which is good! 🙂

5) I almost wanted more interaction between Thyme and the neighbour-man who lives in the apartment below Thyme’s family. Mr. Lipinsky has a good deal of bite to him, but (of course) he turns out to be a bit of a softy at heart. And then there’s his bird, Sylvie.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I like the cover art, but… there is one thing that bothers me about it. If this is New York City, where are the fire escapes?! (That building is a death trap!)

2) There are a few moments where the conflict resolves a little too easily… just like that! *snap* I’m thinking particularly about a scene between the mom and the sister Cori. I was like… well, that was super easy. (If only life worked like that!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Love the New York City setting. Thyme is a likeable character. And who wouldn’t want Mrs. Ravioli to cook for them? *Highly recommended.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

*Note #2: You may notice that I didn’t put a rating for this book. After reading this post by Krysta @ Pages Unbound, I’m rethinking my rating system. Basically, I find I don’t really review books I don’t recommend. And my ratings all tend to be the same anyhow. (Usually, I fluctuate between a 3-4 stars which mean I like the book!) I will probably continue to put ratings on my Goodreads account, because well, that’s how that website works. But for now, I’m planning to give my recommendation in the Final Thoughts.